What is Ebola? The most important things you need to know about the disease

YP Team

Young Post provides a Q&A for all the questions you may have about this deadly illness

YP Team |

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Health workers dressed in protective gear begin their shift at an Ebola treatment center in Beni, Congo DRC.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has recently declared the outbreak of Ebola in Congo, a country in Central Africa, an international health emergency. This is only the fifth time in history the WHO has made this declaration, the last one being during the 2014-2016 Ebola outbreak in West Africa that killed more than 11,000 people. Here are some facts you should know about this devastating disease: 

What is Ebola?

Ebola is a very dangerous sickness that has killed thousands of people in Africa.

Why should I care?

Apart from caring about people dying in Africa, you need to be alert because now the disease is spreading.

Is it in Hong Kong?


Can it get to Hong Kong?


Will it get to Hong Kong?

We don't know, but there is a chance.

Which countries have Ebola?

As of July 19, Ebola has been confirmed in Congo, where more than 1,600 people have died so far, and experts fear it could soon make its way to the nearby country of Rwanda. 

A health worker sprays disinfectant on an ambulance at a Health Centre in Goma
Photo: Reuters

Does everyone who gets Ebola die?

No. That is why it is important that people who are sick get a doctor's help as soon as possible.

Can we catch Ebola from our food?

Ebola is not typically transmitted through food, but it can be spread through handling or eating bushmeat (wild animals hunted for food). 

Can I get Ebola from mosquitos?

It can only be transmitted from person to person. There is no evidence that mosquitos or other insects can transmit Ebola. 

What does it look like when someone has it?

People who get Ebola look like they have one of many other illnesses, like a cold, flu or other fever. But then as it gets worse, patients will start vomiting and have a runny tummy. They may get a rash, have very red eyes or start to bleed from the eyes. Then, if they do not get any help, they may die.

One man attempts to trace the Ebola outbreak during the 2014-2016 West African outbreak

When can you catch Ebola from someone?

Only when someone is showing signs of the disease. 

How does Ebola spread?

Through close contact with bodily fluids, such as blood, sweat, vomit, faeces, urine, saliva or semen, of someone who already shows signs of the disease. Those fluids must have an entry point, like a cut or scrape or someone touching the nose, mouth or eyes with dirty hands, or being splashed. That’s why health care workers wear protective gloves and other equipment.

The World Health Organization says blood, faeces and vomit are the most infectious fluids, while the virus is found in saliva mostly once patients are severely ill and the whole live virus has never been taken from sweat.

What if you're just sitting next to someone who has it?

Ebola isn’t airborne. Dr Tom Frieden, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, has said people don’t get the disease by sitting next to someone on the bus.

“This is not like flu. It’s not like measles, not like the common cold. It’s not as spreadable, it’s not as infectious as those conditions,” he added.

A health worker measures the temperature of a man entering the ALIMA (The Alliance for International Medical Action) Ebola treatment centre in Beni, in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Photo: Reuters

If someone has had Ebola, how can it be cleaned up?

Bleach and other hospital disinfectants kill Ebola. The dried virus on surfaces, like escalator handrails, or bus seats, survives only for several hours.

What happens when someone has Ebola?

They will be taken to hospital and put in a room on their own. Only people in heavy protective clothing and masks will be allowed near them. Their family and other people they have been near will be placed in quarantine.

What is quarantine?

This is when people are taken to somewhere away from everyone else. It stops them from spreading the disease. It is not prison or hospital, but people who break quarantine - that is leave the area and mix with others - can be in big trouble.

Updated from a previous story written October 10, 2014.